יום שלישי, 27 בדצמבר 2011

Our dream house – how to turn a dream into reality

It seems that we all yearn for that dream house, a place truly of our own, the fulfilment of all our dreams, a place where we can feel safe, peaceful, content – “at home”. When we finally decide to realize our dream, we often try to include everything and anything we have ever thought of – till the dream may become a nightmare. In this post I will try to show some alternatives to conventional ways of building.

Alternative housing
The ultimate dream house?
A house – 4 walls, preferably made of concrete, windows and a door, something like the house of the third pig in the classic children’s story. That is the first thing that comes to my mind when asked to describe a house. But there are other options. In fact – these are the ways in which most of humanity has lived since the dawn of history, and further back. Let's briefly explore a few of these options.

Cave Dwellings
Cave Dwelling
We shall start with the dwelling most often associated with ancient people – the so called cavemen. Caves have always been a scarce resource, and even more so in our times. Not to mention the damp in winter. And yet, there are some lucky ones who happen to have a cave in their property, and after cleaning it and maybe plastering the walls they have a true home – especially in the hot days of summer.

Mud houses
Mud house
Another option which has a small but growing number of followers is the mud house, also known as cob houses. Even though at first it might seem that this is something which will wash away with the first rain, with the proper expertise and knowledge, these can be surprisingly comfortable and long lasting. One advantage is the good insulation, which allows one to enjoy comfortable temperatures year round, with minimal energy expenditure. A more personal advantage is the increased feeling of connection to the Earth, when living in this kind of dwelling. Mud houses can be built on your own, and there is also a growing market of professionals who specialize in mud houses.

For most of us, a tent raises memories of hiking trips, or maybe a vacation on the beach. However, in nomadic societies, such as the Mongols, or Bedouins, tents have been a way of life from times immemorial, in hot summers and cold, snowy winters. With proper insulation from the ground, good drainage around the tent, and sealing from the rains, life in a tent can be an amazing experience, with a minimal distance between ourselves and the world outside. Big windows, and an additional layer above the tent will cool the hot summer days. A wooded stove will help us in the cold winters. Most tents have a central space, perhaps divided into subspaces with cloths. However, it is possible to join together 2 or 3 tents, with connecting passages. Tents for permanent dwelling are available in a number of options. There are army surplus tents, which can be adapted for living in, Bedouin tents and yurts (Mongolian tents). Yurts come in a variety of sizes, and can be purchased or even prepared by oneself.

Wood houses
Wooden house from railway car
This is bring us closer to traditional houses. Indeed, in many parts of the world, most of the building is done with wood, even when constructing coneventional houses. A wooden house can be anything from a small hut, built of planks gathered from all over, to an extravagant mansion, as fancy as any standard house. And yet, when surrounded by wood, we get a feeling of coziness, of a greater connection to the world.

Using recycled materials
An option which is growing more widespread is the use of recycled materials for building. By this we are not only lessening the use of new resources and reducing our ecological footprint, but are also, in a small way, helping reduce the amounts of ever growing trash. We can use a variety of materials, such as worn out tires, used glass bottles, planks and so on. All that is required is a bit of imagination, and awareness. This can be done in any kind of building. including conventional ones.

There are many ways to construct our dwelling, each with it’s advantages and disadvantages. Most of us will probably stick with the conventional methods, but it is always important to remember that there are many ways to move upon this Earth, to choose how we interact with the world.
In the future I will write about how we minimize our impact, our ecological footprint even when we do choose to live in a conventional house.

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